report: Strong Earthquake Jolts SW China
BEIJING, May 19 (Xinhua) -- Five vehicles were buried over the weekend by mud flows as they attempted to leave quake-ravaged regions of Sichuan Province, and an estimated 158 people were known to have been on board, a transport official told Xinhua on Monday.
The death toll was not confirmed as rescue work was still underway, said Director of Road Traffic Dai Dongchang with the Ministry of Transport in an interview.
Dai earlier told the central government website (www.gov.cn) that more than 158 relief workers with the Sichuan transportation department were trapped by mud flows.
The identities of the victims were yet to be confirmed, he said.
The official confirmed two construction machines were buried by mud flows but the drivers escaped in time, with no injuries.
The official admitted that mud flows and aftershocks following the deadly quake and blocked rivers swollen by heavy rain had hampered restoration of roads and rescue work in the quake zone.
Dai said relief workers risked their lives repairing three major roads connecting the epicenter, Wenchuan County, and neighboring counties to the outside world. By Monday, traffic had resumed on the three roads.
He said that as of Monday, roads leading to more than 100 quake-hit towns and villages had also been repaired and opened to traffic while traffic to some 50 towns and villages was still blocked by rocks and mudslides.
According to initial calculations by Sichuan Province, losses caused by road damage amounted to 15 billion yuan (2.2 billion U.S. dollars), said Dai.